Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 1 in A major
1957/8; dedicated to Clive Lythgoe who gave the first performance with the Hallé Orchestra under Baribrolli at the Cheltenham Festival in July 1958

'Williamson: The Complete Piano Concertos' (CDA68011/2)
Williamson: The Complete Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Poco lento – Allegro – Poco lento
Movement 2: Andantino
Movement 3: Poco presto

Piano Concerto No 1 in A major
The Piano Concerto No 1 in A major was composed between 1957 and 1958 and is dedicated to Clive Lythgoe, who gave the first performance of the work at the Cheltenham Festival in July 1958 with the Hallé orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. Lythgoe was contracted to perform the work again the following year at the BBC Proms; however, immediately prior to the event he sustained an arm injury, leaving Williamson with little option but to fulfil the role of soloist himself, which he did with great aplomb. He described the concerto as ‘lightweight’ compared to his other works of the period; indeed, it was among the first tonally oriented works that he produced following his studies with Lutyens.

The first movement, which opens and closes Poco lento, is built upon a single melodic idea that is first introduced by the strings in the slow introduction. In the main Allegro section, this theme is presented in various guises—at first it appears in a lively syncopated passage written for the piano and later it is transformed through the inversion of some of its intervals into a striking, lyrical melody that is passed between various instruments in the orchestra. The same series of pitches is also used as the primary source material for each of the remaining two movements. In the Andantino, the series is used to create a darker, brooding character, while in the lively rondo finale (Poco presto), it appears in the grandiose main theme, which itself reflects Williamson’s exposure to popular music in London’s nightclubs and recalls the tunefulness of his overture Santiago de Espada (1957). Although the concerto is essentially monothematic, the diverse treatment of the initial germinal idea shows Williamson’s ingenuity and his already abundant skills as a melodist and as a writer of challenging, idiomatic music for the piano.

from notes by Carolyn Philpott © 2014

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